HABIB GIRGIS (1876-1951)
Reformer, educator, preacher. He was born in Cairo and joined the Coptic school of Harit al-Saqqayin, which Patriarch Cyril IV had established. He was educated in the Clerical College of the Coptic Orthodox Church and became a professor of theology from 1898 in the same college, and then its principal from 1918 until his death. He published al-Karma (1906-1923), a weekly magazine that radiates his teachings.
At the turn of the 20th century, he founded the Sunday School system to teach Coptic children the Christian faith. Habib Girgis played a key role in the introduction of the study of the Christian religion to Coptic students in government schools and provided the Ministry of Education with a two-volume manual as a teacher’s guidebook. He strove for the reform of the Coptic Church and succeeded in persuading Patriarch Cyril V (1874-1927) to take steps to limit the ordination of priests to graduates of the Clerical College.
Girgis is the author of numerous articles and books in Arabic related to the theology and liturgy of the Coptic Orthodox Church. His most significant work, entitled Practical Means for Coptic Reformation: Aspirations and Dreams Which Could Be Realized in Ten Years (in Arabic), appeared in Cairo in 1942 and was reprinted by the Sunday Schools Press in 1993. Many of the disciples of Habib Girgis continued his work, in particular as Sunday School leaders, including the present patriarch of the Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, who highly appreciates him.